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Theodore Wirth describes the park in his history of the park system as follows: “Although Lake Nokomis (408 acres in area) was purchased in 1907 (for the small sum of $65,000), the improvement work did not begin until the spring of 1914. The area acquired consisted of about 300 acres of shallow water known as Lake Amelia, about 70 acres of mostly low swampy farmland at the northwest corner, and about 38 acres of higher dry land at its northeast corner [where the Recreation Center sits now], as well as a small strip along the south boundary. The improvement plan contemplated reducing the water area from 300 to 200 acres (the minimum depth of the lake to be not less than eight feet and the low lands to be filled to well above the lake level), and increasing the total land area from 108 to 208 acres. Estimated dredging operations amounted to between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 cubic yards.”

In May of 1914, the Northern Dredge and Dock Company of Duluth began work to remove 2,460,978 cubic yards of sand and soil from what was then a shallow 300 acre water body known locally as Lake Amelia. A dyke was built in the northwest corner of the park and dredging continued until December of 1918. The park board’s improvement plan called for the minimum depth of this new 200 acre lake to be 8 feet and for the dredge material to be used to fill in the surrounding swampy lowlands to well above water level.

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As pockets of sand were found during the project they were used to create the beach currently known as the Main Beach and to provide a base for the roads being built to the site and under the bath house, also resulting in deeper pockets of water.

The fill eventually increased the usable park land by 100 acres, nearly doubling available land for development. The land that was filled in, is in some places still settling and may continue to do so for decades. Wirth speculated that it may never fully settle “Dredge fills on swampland, as it is well known, take many years to settle to a final or permanent elevation—and in fact our experience with them leads me to doubt that they ever do come to a complete standstill.”

It can take a century or longer for dredged water bodies to begin functioning like a naturally occurring lakes. As part of the master planning process currently underway, Nokomis was analyzed to see if it was still stabilizing. The water quality consultant from EOR (Emmons and Olivier Resources, Inc.), has determined that Nokomis has finished its transitional period and is now functioning like a natural lake.

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